GARDINER, Maine — A medical marijuana dispensary is moving into the historic train station in Gardiner.

Wellness Connection of Maine held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday to mark the move.

The group is closing the dispensary in Hallowell and moving it to Gardiner, where it will occupy a 1911 train station that has been empty since the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Gardiner left it in 2003.

“It is wonderful to see this old train station come back to life. I have driven by it thousands of times, often wondering what would be its next life,” said Gardiner Mayor Thom Harnett in a statement. “Today I am happy and proud to see our city reviving a piece of our history. At the same time, we are moving forward and providing needed care to so many who suffer with medical conditions that might not respond to more traditional medicines.”

Local officials touted the new dispensary as part of what they described as Gardiner’s economic resurgence. The town of less than 6,000 people has more than 250 companies within its borders, and another 135 projects are being built or are in development, according to a Monday announcement by Wellness Connection.

“It is a positive sign for our economy,” said state Rep. Gay Grant, D-Gardiner, in a statement. “Businesses can and will thrive here if we provide a supportive environment. I commend the local government for making that happen here.”

Wellness Connection owns four dispensaries and one cultivation facility in Maine. Since opening three years ago, the group has grown from five to 50 employees.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Maine since 1999 for people suffering from medical conditions like cancer, PTSD and Crohn’s disease. Larger-scale dispensaries were legalized in 2009.

“I use [marijuana] in addition to traditional medication, and it has been the final piece of the puzzle that has allowed me to live a full and balanced life,” said medical marijuana patient Ted Axelrod at the Monday ribbon-cutting. “A life I’ve dreamed of.”

Wellness Connection is the largest marijuana dispensary group in the state. According to a Monday news release issued by the company, the train station was chosen in part because it is handicapped accessible and has the capacity to accommodate a new commercial-grade kitchen, where medical marijuana “edibles” will be produced.

“We are incredibly honored to be welcomed by the Gardiner community,” said Patricia Rosi, CEO of Wellness Connection of Maine, in a statement. “Medical marijuana is an emerging national industry, so I appreciate the significance of our dispensary operating within this historic building on Maine Avenue.”

CBS 13 reporter Kim Block contributed to this story.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.